Friday, November 30, 2007

The Sobering Experience of Responsibility

I am reading David Halberstam's The Fifties. I picked it up used for $0.50 at the Pay and Take sale in Gualala, and I am glad I did. It is a fun read, and I am learning a lot.

There is a lot to comment on in the book, but instead I am going to take off on a quote from columnist Joe Alsop, made during the Presidential campaign of 1952 between Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower. The Democrats had held the United States presidency since 1932, including four-terms for fascist President-for-Life Roosevelt. Alsop favored Stevenson, but he wrote (in a private letter): "The real need for a change in this country arises, not from the decay of the Democrats, but from the need to give the Republicans the sobering experience of responsibility."

It seems likely that in 2009 the Democratic Party leadership will be experiencing the sobering experience of responsibility. They will inherit the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in general. They will inherit the dilemmas of global warming, entrenched poverty, globalization of economics; they will inherit a plague of lobbyists and campaign donations.

It is interesting to watch the rapidly growing Green Party when it runs headlong into the sobering experience of responsbility. Only a few hundred members of the Green Party have held political office so far (I am one of them). Most have served on city councils or, like myself, on school boards. Most have done considerably better for the public than the bulk of Democrats and Republicans in such offices. But most of the time and energy that must be spent in any such office is sucked up by the demands of the office. The vast Green Party platform provides little real guidance for those actually holding office. In four years of office, if you can pass 2 or 3 Green statutes that are outside of the Dem/Rep spectrum you are doing well. What I've usually observed is that with a Green on an elected body to shame the Democrats, there is less in the way of the usual wholesale give-aways to business and bureaucratic interests than is normal. So far Greens have mainly forced Democrats posing as progressives to show a little spine. In the next few years I expect to seen Green Party members elected more often to state legislatures and even Congress. It will be interesting to see what effect that has on the brew of politics in the United States.

But back to the Republicans in the 1950s. I think it is important to understand why so many people are Republicans today. The main reason, of course, is the vast propaganda about people only being sane if they choose between the 2 big parties. People were and are mainly Republicans because they are disgusted with the Democrats. The first Republicans were disgusted with the Democratic Party being the party of slavery. In the 1950's, after an era of having close to a one-party system in the U.S., many people deserted the Democrats. The Republican party back then had 4 wings, so it was relatively easy to find a home in it. There was the Neanderthal, Joe McCarthy, wing. There was the conservative libertarian wing led by Senator Taft. There was the liberal, anti-segregation (pro civil rights for African Americans) wing led by Dewey and Earl Warren. And there was the fuzzy, middle-of-the-road wing that became associated with President Eisenhower.

Out in the wilderness of being out of office, much of the Republican Party at the beginning of the 1950's was out of touch with reality. The left wing of the party was accused by the McCarthy wing of being soft on Communism; even moderate Democrats were accused of being Communists. On the other hand the Democratic Party, having made a few reforms in the 1930's, had literally become the handmaiden of organized crime. Adlai Stevenson, now seen as a liberal light, was the creation of the corrupt Daly machine in Chicago. Estes Kefauver, who had exposed the deep connections between the Democratic Party urban political machines and organized crime, sought the Democratic Party nomination but was passed over.

The most influential wing of the Republican Party has always been the Wall Street wing. There is a similar wing in the Democratic Party (See my The Senator from Wall Street, for example). In the 1980's the Wall Street Republicans bought some corrupt Christian leaders and created the new Republican Party that progressive Democrats love to hate: one "dominated" by the Christian Right. But the mostly working-class and middle-class Christians were date-raped and left forlorn and pregnant. Wall Street got its tax cuts and its deregulation of business, but the Christians never got prayer in the schools or a national ban on abortions or even a ban on female nipple exposure on HBO.

Progressive Democrats are about to be date-raped big time. Promises of eternal love and "you're the only girl for me," are being made. Watch what happens when the Democratic Party politicians show us their version of the Sobering Experience of Responsibility.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ron Paul or Cynthia McKinney?

Now that the Democrats and Republicans have stopped bickering among themselves enough to at least set actual dates for their primaries, the end of Ron Paul's campaign is within sight.

Of course Ron Paul could prove himself to be just another Dennis Kucinich; a water carrier for the corrupt party organization he pretends to offer an alternative to. If Ron is not among the top 3 Republican contenders by mid-February, you will know that is what is going on. Last time around Kucinich beguiled the anti-war movement by saying stay away from the Green Party, have a say in the Democratic Party. But at the Democratic Party convention he and his followers were ignored. Yet he endorsed Kerry, preferring to stay in the Democrat camp even if it meant backing a pro-war candidate.

Probably Ron Paul will drop out in February. Not that I don't wish him well. Despite his occasional nut-case positions, like wanting to go back to the gold standard (and hence to hard times and Depression), he has a lot of good things to say. We do waste perfectly good taxpayer money on useless military expenditures. The war on drugs is a failure, not because it was not well prosecuted, but because it is an ill-conceived effort to reduce drug problems (which are real) by increasing the profitability of the illegal drug market.

Cynthia McKinney is a former Democrat who served first in the Georgia legislature and then in Congress. She was an early critic of the U.S. response to the attacks on the U.S. by Saudi members of Al Qaeda, and then of the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

On civil liberties I think she better than Ron Paul, but basically in the same camp. The main difference is that Cynthia McKinney, though she is much younger than Ron Paul, is an African-American who was born in Georgia when there was still a (Democratic-Party led) regime of racist discrimination and segregation. She knows what it is like to be denied her civil rights. She has a long history of fighting for civil rights for everyone.

I'll be learning more about Cynthia's campaign positions over time, and I will criticize the ones that I think are wrong.

But come February, or whenever it is that Ron Paul stops seeking the Republican Party nomination, hopefully some of his fans will give Ms. McKinney a chance.

Again, if a grass roots effort earns Ron Paul the Republican nomination, I'll be pleased. I just would not lay any bets on that happening.

More data:

Ron Paul's campaign site
Cynthia McKinney campaign site

My Politics main page

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barry Bonds and George Bush

I was just listening to the radio (old fashioned FM) while eating my breakfast oatmeal and heard that baseball star Barry Bonds could get thirty years in jail for lying to a grand jury. Apparently he took some steroids. That is considered cheating in major league sports, but baseball leagues don't run prison systems. The U.S. government is going after Bonds for lying. The U.S. government likes to maintain a monopoly on lying.

George W. Bush, President of the United States, has lied with a frequency and a fervor that are impressive even for a President of the United States. He said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and he bombed Iraq back to the age of the Prophet based on that lie. He said he'd get prayer in school and end abortions. I don't mind those lies quite as much because he was lying to Christians and I figure that is fair enough. You can't get an abortion in Iraq anymore, and they are praying to Allah in the schools there now, so at least he's made progress elsewhere on his election pledges, if not in the U.S.A.

Politicians aren't supposed to lie under oath, but apparently their oath of office does not count the same way an oath before a grand jury or a court counts. Lying during election campaigns, among politicians, is considered a virtue, especially by fat cat campaign donors.

Of course I am only using Bush and Bonds as examples. President Clinton lied during his testimony about some bimbo or another, which does not seem to be on quite the same scale as a lie of mass destruction. I don't remember Bill Clinton going to jail for lying. Maybe Barry Bonds should hire Bill's lawyer. "When I said I did not use steroids, of course I knew my body is a manly example of natural steroids, and I meant that any steroids that were outside my body were outside my body and any steroids that were inside my body were inside my body." I mean what does the word "lie" mean, anyway? What is "truth?" What is "swear?" What is "is?"

Some of my friends, about 50 million of them, want for Congress to impeach Bush. Most of those friends are just Democrats who want to get back at the Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton. But the Republicans were just getting back at the Democrats for impeaching Richard Nixon. Some would say this cycle of violence has to stop, but I say: impeach them all. After Congress impeaches Bush for lying and committing war crimes, Congress can impeach itself for lying and committing war crimes.

Why, if prominent politicians didn't constantly lie to the American public we might end up in a state of anarchy.

I met an honest politician once. He had run for office four times. He was never elected. Some of the voters appreciated his honesty, but they voted for one or other of his flatterer opponents. The truth is just too painful for people to want to hear it more often than once in a blue moon.

But the good news is they play baseball in prison. Barry Bonds will be one valuable asset.

Can you imagine George W. Bush in prison? How about Bill Clinton? I will leave you with those cheery thoughts.

More data:

Barry Bonds
George W. Bush

My main web site:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pakistan and Israel

This essay is not about international relations between Pakistan and Israel, though that would also be an interesting topic. This essay looks at the remarkable similarity of the creation of modern Israel and Pakistan and relates that to the two nations' very similar internal and external problems.

Israel was founded in 1947 when the newly-formed United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Palestian. Prior to that Palestine had been a British colony, or mandate if you like a prettier term for brutal foreign occupations.

Pakistan was founded in 1947, a few months before the founding of Israel. It had been agreed to partition the Indian subcontinent into two nations, one Islamic and the other Hindu (though the leaders of both nations tended to secularism). Prior to that the Indian subcontinent had been a part of the British empire.

Isreal was largely the product of migration. The city of Jerusalem had a substantial number of Jewish residents under the Ottoman Empire. Beginning in the 1800's Jewish migration to Palestine grew, then it speeded up greatly in the 1930's, angering Arabs and resulting in the British imposing strict quotas on Jewish immigration in 1939. After that illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine greatly increased. The creation of the state of Isreal was accompanied by the explusion of many (but not all) non-Jews from the Israeli territory and the rapid increase of its Jewish population through immigration. The key point is that the state of Israel was explicitly created as a homeland for a particular religious sect (or spectrum of sects, since within Judeism there are many rival sects). However, many of the Jews who immigrated were in fact secular, rather than practicing religious Jews.

Pakistan was also created as a homeland for people of a particular religious denomination, Islam. There had been a vigorous debate in India for over a century about what India would look like once the British left. Prior to the invasion by Britain much of Indian had been ruled by Muslims who had invaded centuries earlier. However, most Muslims were actually poorer than most Hindus because they had been converts from the lower castes of Hindu society. In most areas of India, Muslims were a minority. Muslim political leaders knew they would never be the leaders of a united India; they simply would not have the votes, nor the economic leverage. So they angled for a two-state solution. The nefarious British could have left India a united state, and then left the Indians to sort things out themselves. With lines drawn there was massive communal violence, plus many Moslems on the Hindu side of the lines moved to Pakistan and vice-versa. The nation of India ended up with a substantial Moslem minority. Pakistan had a very small Hindu minority as well as other minorities, notably Christian and Sikh.

Israel's problems were apparent immediately, as the new state was a tiny Jewish island in a sea of Islam. Because it was an artificially created state and its creation involved land theft, murder, and the violent expulsion of non-Jews, its mere existence seemed like a crime to Arabs. Others may (and should) sympathise with the Jews who survived the Holocaust, but the Palestinians did not run the Holocaust. The U.N.'s creation of Israel amounted to punishing Arabs for the crimes of Europeans. The Nazis originated in Bavaria, Germany; expelling the Bavarians and making Bavaria a Jewish state might have struck people as a fairer response.

Pakistan was much larger both geographically and in population than Israel, but its leaders probably also felt surrounded by enemies. Their main concerns were the Indians and the Chinese (who within a couple of years would be Communists). Even Persia, now called Iran, had a history of rivalry. In addition significant tribal groups found themselves half in Pakistan and half in Afghanistan.

If Israel has the problem of Palestinian refugees and control of Palestinian majority areas (the West Bank and Gaza), Pakistan has the problem of Kashmir, a Moslem-majority area that had a Hindu monarch and was grabbed by India, then fought over several times.

Both nations have atomic bombs. Both are United States allies, but don't want to be U.S. puppets, and so have a difficult balancing act to maintain.

Both nations have bizarre combinations of modern science and technology combined with substantial minorities of fanatical religious conservatives.

If you want to see what can go wrong if you don't have the constitutional separation of church from state, you have only to look at Israel and Pakistan.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Spanish Beatified Priests, Nuns, and the Luftwaffe

At my Vatican Rag web page I recently posted a commentary, Vatican Names Fascist Saints. In short the Catholic Church has beatified almost 500 clerics who it claims were killed by the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's.

Coincidentally further light was shed on the situation because last weekend I went to the local Pay and Take, a fundraiser for seniors, in Gualala to check out the used books for sale. I bought four, spending $3.00 of my hard-earned dough. One book was The Rise of the Luftwaffe - Forging the Secret German Air Weapon 1918 - 1940 by Herbert Moloy Mason, Jr. Like most curious people and particularly political scientists, I have spent some time studying the Nazi (German National Socialist Party) rise to power. I figured at worst I would be treated to stories of air battles and design changes in early aircraft.

The book added some fascinating insights to the Nazi story. One of the most powerful, and bizarre, Nazis was Hermann Goering, a World War I ace fighter pilot. After the Nazis came to power (they were elected on a program virtually identical to that of the U.S. Democratic Party of the same era) Goering was put in charge of the German air force, or Luftwaffe. The first combat the Luftwaffe saw was in the Spanish Civil War. The Luftwaffe provided an air lift to General Franco's troops, from Morocco into Spain. Then the Luftwaffe bombed the Spanish Navy, which had mostly stayed on the side of the Republic (the sailors mostly had to kill their officers to achieve that end). Then the Luftwaffe took on the Republican air force, since most of the pilots had sided with the Republic.

At that point the Luftwaffe began the first major aerial bombing campaign in human history. They attacked the Basques, who had sided with the Republic. Which brings us back to the Catholic martyred saints story. I quote from page 231 of The Rise of the Luftwaffe, about Operation Magic Fire:

"The raid caught Durango at the time of early mass, and the town's three large churches were filled. One bomb plummeted through the roof of the Church of the Jesuit Fathers, killing everyone inside except the vicar. Another ripped into the roof of the Santa Susana chapel, killing fourteen nuns. Santa Maria was hit just as Father Don Carlos Morilla was elevating the Host; he was crushed under tons of rubble. The bombs poured through the rest of the town, and when the Ju.52s had emptied themselves, the He.51s swooped down ... the next day ... The fighters added new touches to their technique by machine-gunning the streets after scattering their fragmentation bombs, and two Sisters of Charity were thus killed while running for safety."

A few days later the more-celebrated carpet bombing of Guernica took place.

But the Nationalists fought for religious intolerance of a Catholic sort, Adolf Hitler himself was a Catholic, and by then Pope had already made a pact of collaboration with Benito Mussolini (who also aided General Franco).

Maybe if an outcry is raised, some day the priests and nuns killed by the Fascists will be beatified. That would surprise me, but they say with God anything is possible. More likely the Catholic Church will make Francisco Franco a saint first. After all, he is the Constantine the Great of the 20th century.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

As Cynthia McKinney Goes ...

Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is seeking the nomination of the Green Party for President of the United States. Talk about a Black Swan.

Her nomination is not assured as Ralph Nader is also expected to seek the nomination. It is early, I reserve the right to change my mind, but let me tell you why you should vote for Ms. McKinney in the Green Party primary, if you are registered Green. If you are registered in one of the two war crimes parties, you will have your choice of war crimes apologists.

Ralph Nader has done more good for America than any President we have had during his lifetime, but he does fall into the category of old, white, and male. His supporters say he is of Lebanese extraction and should not count as white, but that is like saying Italian-Americans or Irish-Americans aren't white. They say he is in good shape for an old man, but these are they same people who lampooned Ronald Reagan as too old to hold office; but Ralph, soon to turn 74, is older than Reagan was when he became president (Ronald was a mere 70).

Cynthia McKinney has actually run for public office and held office, something Ralph cannot claim. She won a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1988. Believe it or not, said body still required women to wear dresses, and Cynthia put an end to that. In 1992 she won election to Congress representing the 11th District of Georgia. She first served in Congress until 2002.

In 2002 the pro-war Democratic Party establishment and Republican Party grassroots ganged up on Cynthia. As you can see in the documentary American Black Out, in George people do not register in political parties. They vote in the primary of their choice. In 2002 and again in 2006, those not being years with Presidential primaries, Republicans voted in the Democratic primary in Cynthia's district in order to quiet her voice against the Wars.

Which is why you should help Cynthia become President. While many people opposed the Wars Against Afghanistan and Iraq from the beginning, only a very few who held major office took that risk.

In 2004 progressive voters threw away their votes, hoping they would get Bush out of office, but they just got more of the same because John Kerry was too chickenshit to demand that the votes in Ohio be counted properly.

In 2006 anti-war voters (a far broader category than progressive voters) voted in a Democratic Party majority in Congress, hoping that would end the War in Iraq. But instead of using its power to cut off funds for the war, the Democratic Congress played politics, hoping a continued war would make the Republicans more unpopular.

The Republicans are in dissarray and are going to go down in flames in 2008. You can tell because all their usual corporate sponsors are giving money to the Democrats, in particular Hillary Clinton, this time around. But we do not have to follow their script.

Note also that Cynthia McKinney is a strong advocate for a National Health Insurance program, fair taxation, and a healthy environment.

If you live in California it is not too late to change your registration to Green to vote for Cynthia McKinney in the Green primary. It just takes a few minutes; call your local Registrar of Voters to get a form.

Look to this blog and for more information on Cynthia McKinney's candidacy as it develops.

More data:

All Things Cynthia McKinney
My Green Party Pages with links to more